TULSA, OK.—The Tulsa Oilers hosted a three game set to close out 2016 this past weekend facing the Utah Grizzlies and Wichita Thunder.
With six points in play the Oilers nabbed five, losing in OT to the Grizzlies and defeating the Thunder twice, pushing their record to 20-12-3 with 43 points which is good enough for second in the ECHL Central Division and second place in the ECHL Western Conference.
They also closed out the month of December, an underperforming month in which the Oilers won only twice at home.
On Friday, the Oilers hosted Utah at the BOK Center for the first time since November 2nd when they defeated the Grizzlies 5-3. It didn’t end as well for the Oilers during Friday’s game as the team saw defensive lapses and then an impotent special teams unit led to the team limping to a 3-2 loss in overtime.
After an early goal by the Grizzlies Ralph Cuddemi, Garrett Ladd and Emerson Clark pushed the Oilers into a 2-1 lead. Jon Puskar scored midway through the first to tie the game.
Colin Stevens manned the Oilers net for this game and made key saves through the middle period to keep his side in the contest and hold the tie through the middle frame and on into the overtime session. Tim Daly then ended the match with a goal 2:25 into the extra period to give Utah a hard earned victory.
Saturday brought the Oilers’ oldest and deepest rivals to Tulsa hungry for a win. The Wichita Thunder came into the BOK Center for the New Year’s Eve tilt on a five-game losing streak and smarting from a 9-0 shellacking at the hands of the defending Kelly Cup champion Allen Americans.
In addition to that mess, the Thunder were mired in a three-game stretch in which they couldn’t find the back of their opponent’s net.
That all changed at 13:50 of the first period while the Oilers were on a power play and gave up a shorthanded goal off the stick of Vincent Arseneau, who ended the Thunder’s goalless streak at a little short of 194 minutes by lifting the disk over Oilers goalie Jamie Phillips on a rebound. Phil Brewer tied the game at 1-1 after Kale Kessy picked off a Thunder clearing attempt and setup Brewer in front of the net with 2:51 to play in the frame.
Then with just ten seconds remaining in the first period, the Oilers killed a penalty and sprung defenseman Jacob Poe from the penalty box. The defender received the puck on a clearing pass and raced in on Wichita goalie Peter Di Salvo but was pulled down before he could shoot resulting in a penalty shot.
Poe converted the shot, giving the Oilers a 2-1 lead going into the first break.
Landon Oslanski slammed a shot in past Phillips under the crossbar to tie the game for the Thunder with nearly six minutes elapsed into the middle period and struck again four minutes later when Arseneau got his second of the night.
Tulsa answered off the lumber of Shawn Bates, who knotted the score at 3-3 with a little over four minutes to go in the second and the period ended deadlocked.
It looked as if the two rivals were headed into the overtime session, Tulsa for the second straight night when with just 1:43 remaining Oilers forward Danick Gauthier slammed the puck through Di Salvo to give the Oilers a lead that they would not relinquish and would add to with an Emerson Clark empty net mark.
The Oilers rang in the New Year on Sunday afternoon facing the Thunder once again in the rubber match of the weekend. After the Thunder’s Ian Lowe gave the Thunder the early lead for the second straight game, Tulsa evened the score when Thunder goalie Peter Di Salvo got caught out of his net and Oilers forward Phil Brewer capitalized with a wraparound goal.
Christophe Lalancette pushed the home team into the lead shortly after the second period began, stealing the puck from a Wichita defenseman and scoring on a breakaway to give Tulsa its first lead of 2017.
Gerrad Grant responded for Wichita, snapping the puck past Jamie Phillips to knot the score at two a piece, then the Oilers suddenly found the goal production switch and threw it for three unanswered marks in the middle period.
First, Shawn Bates buried a rebound on a 4-on-3 power play to make it 3-2. Tyson Wilson then ripped a shot past Di Salvo into the top corner 26 seconds later to double the lead. Kale Kessy finished off a four-goal frame by tipping a point shot into the net on another Oilers power play with 13 seconds left.
Lowe dented the twine for a second time to pull the Thunder within two goals, but the Oilers were in the driver’s seat and rode that train all the way to the final horn. With that Tulsa had won it’s second in a row while Wichita lost their seventh consecutive game.
It was the first time in a long time that the Oilers notched a pair of wins or more in over a month’s time and it was the second time the Oilers swept Wichita this season in a multiple game set.
From here the Oilers will embark upon a season-long, eight game road trip that starts in South Carolina against the Stingrays, travels through Atlanta for a pair of games with the Gladiators and then onto Greenville, Kalamazoo, and Fort Wayne before visiting Indy and Quad City.
The next time Tulsa plays on home ice will be on January 21st when they open a two-game set with the Idaho Steelheads.